CATCHER'S MITTS AND BOWL GAMES
What do seekers of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and White House correspondents have in common? Only this: Both have been the subject of hoaxes peripherally involving sports. But there all similarity ends. While Bob Reitman and Gene Mueller, co-hosts of a morning music-and-talk show on Milwaukee radio station WKTI-FM, sought to take advantage of the desire of Cabbage Patch Kids fanciers to acquire this year's hottest toy, White House spokesman Larry Speakes was trying to exploit the eagerness of the presidential press corps to get the news. And while Reitman and Mueller pulled off their little stunt, Speakes, as far as we're concerned, laid an egg with his.
Both hoaxes were widely reported, but in case you missed them, here's a recap. Reitman and Mueller kiddingly announced on their show one morning that at three o'clock that afternoon an unidentified person would fly over Milwaukee County Stadium in a B-29 bomber and drop between 1,500 and 2,000 Cabbage Patch Kids on the stadium parking lot. They said that anybody who wanted a doll should show up with a catcher's mitt and hold his American Express Card aloft so that an aerial photograph of his account number could be taken. The radio station was swamped by calls from listeners who took all this seriously. Even though the station later aired disclaimers, some two dozen people braved a biting wind to come out to the stadium in hopes of getting dolls.
Now for Speakes's caper. Upset by what he felt was excessive snooping around by reporters at the desks of White House press officials, Speakes planted two bogus internal memos on the desks of his aides. One memo proposed moving the press corps out of the White House and into the Old Executive Office Building. The other suggested that President Reagan announce his candidacy for reelection at halftime of an upcoming college football bowl game. Speakes later boasted with lip-smacking satisfaction that two unnamed reporters had "bit like snakes" and had called "all over this White House" to try to pin down the story about relocating the press. But they hadn't really bitten as much as Speakes indicated; unlike the folks who showed up at the stadium in Milwaukee, the reporters had at least taken the trouble to check things out, and none of the false information was printed or broadcast.
December 12, 1983
Whether or not it explains why they fared better in the hoax department than Speakes did, Reitman and Mueller certainly exhibited a better grasp of sports. They demonstrated a sure instinct in focusing on owners of catcher's mitts, which, after all, are tools of ignorance. Speakes's business about the bowl game was less artful. As everybody knows, halftime is when TV football viewers go to the bathroom and the kitchen; they aren't about to spend that valuable time listening to a political speech. What Speakes should have done is planted a memo saying that Reagan was going to put the announcement of his candidacy in writing and drop it out of a B-29 over RFK Stadium. Who knows how many White House correspondents would have shown up with catcher's mitts?
Speaking of the White House, those were some mighty impressive photos that Parade and TIME ran earlier this week of Ronald Reagan pumping iron to develop the presidential pecs and abs. And those were useful tips that Reagan dispensed in his Parade article on how he stays fit. The President said he chops wood and rides horses on his ranch in California, swims at Camp David and gets in a half-hour daily workout—bench presses, leg lifts and the like—in the White House. He also said he eats moderately and told of having followed a doctor's advice and "cured myself of the salt habit." And he suggested that his countrymen heed his example and pay more attention to matters of exercise and diet.
In divulging his fitness secrets, Reagan said playfully, "Move over, Jane Fonda, here comes the Ronald Reagan workout plan." White House aides hope that by projecting an image of robustness, Reagan's fitness article will also help push aside potential campaign rivals like Walter Mondale and John Glenn. But in politics, it seems, every silver lining has a cloud. The President's article quickly drew fire from the $650 million-a-year salt industry. Objecting to Reagan's putdown, William Dickinson, the president of the Salt Institute, which represents 16 major salt producers, said, "The fact of the matter is that only 5% of the people in this country need to reduce their salt intake. If you're a normal, healthy person, there's no benefit to cutting back on salt. The President is taking a doctor's advice, which most people should do, but cutting out salt isn't good for everyone."
Whatever the political implications, the fact is that the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and other authoritative health organizations maintain that the reduction of salt consumption will help even the normal, healthy people mentioned by Dickinson prevent hypertension associated with strokes. Score this one for that fitness guru, Ronald Reagan.
DO YOU KNOW ME? I'M KEVIN....
The American Express Card may be accepted by more than 700,000 commercial establishments worldwide, but last week Chicago Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery had trouble getting one honored at The Summit in Houston. With three seconds left in a 116-110 loss to the Rockets, Loughery was ejected from the game in yet another of the brouhahas over officiating that have occurred during the NBA's ill-advised lockout of referees. The game dragged on for nearly three hours because of 70 fouls, six technicals and 101 free-throw attempts, and Loughery got the heave-ho for questioning some calls too strenuously. But before leaving the court, he tried to officially protest the game.
Ordinarily, protests entail notifying the officials at the game and then mailing a $500 check to the NBA office in New York. Whether out of ignorance or pique, Cary Toone, the substitute ref working the game, interpreted the rules as requiring Loughery to produce the check on the spot. This sent the Bulls coach into a rage. "Who has a credit card?" bellowed Loughery, who never brings his valuables out on the court with him. Trainer Mark Pfeil produced the green plastic, and Loughery triumphantly held it up for Toone to see, asking, "How about this? Will you take American Express?" Toone wouldn't, and Loughery was unceremoniously escorted off the floor.
Maybe Loughery should try Visa next time.
Credit Dallas Times Herald columnist Blackie Sherrod with running the nastiest crack of the week. Noting that Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. had put the team on the market for $60 million, Sherrod quoted a local wag as saying that the whopping price tag included the Cowboys' famed cheerleaders. "But if you want the cheerleaders' costumes," Sherrod's friend added, "that'll be another seven bucks."
One hundred feet above Kailua Bay on Oahu in Hawaii, parasailor Ron Kurth, 22, was breezing along under his parachute at the end of a tether being pulled by the powerboat below. All of a sudden Kurth became aware of something odd. There was a gusty 25-knot trade wind blowing, and he realized that the boat, a new $4,000 16-footer with a 135-hp engine, wasn't pulling him; he and his parachute were pulling the boat—backward. "There wasn't anything I could do but hang on," Kurth said later, but aboard the boat, 20-year-old Steve Rostad, seeing water coming in over the transom of the craft and realizing what was happening, tried to pull the parachute down. He couldn't, nor could he unhook the tow-line and free Kurth so that the latter could descend normally.
Rostad, who weighs 175 pounds, even tried to climb the towline, hoping that his weight would bring down Kurth, who weighs only 110. That didn't work either. The boat was being pulled toward shore and was shipping more water. Finally, three windsurfers noticed what was going on and came to help. Slowly, they all reeled Kurth in, although not before the boat swamped and overturned in shallow water.
Kurth, who suffered a bruised foot in the strange mishap, had been planning to open a parasailing business this month, selling rides. "This is something of a setback," he said.
In one of its regular "competitions" New York magazine recently invited readers to come up with answers followed by questions in the manner of Carnac the Magnificent, the mystical, all-knowing soothsayer portrayed on The Tonight Show by a turban-wearing Johnny Carson. As things turned out, three of the entries that the magazine's judges picked as winners had baseball angles:
A. Strawberry Fields Forever.
Q. What does a Mets' rookie do in the hereafter?
A. Catch 22.
Q. What did Bob Uecker do with 100 pitches?
A. I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too.
Q. What are Dave Winfield's next salary demands?
That's it, Carnac fans. And may the bird of paradise build a nest in your batting helmet.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Gottfried, Kansas football coach, asked if powerful Nebraska does things that other teams don't do: "I've never seen anyone kick off so much."
•Gaylord Perry, retired pitcher and noted spitballer, revealing on a TV show where he hid foreign substances while on the mound: "Mainly on my face. The umpires never noticed because I sweat a lot."
•Tom Mueller, TCU defensive coordinator, explaining to exasperated Head Coach Jim Wacker why there was no Horned Frog defender near an opposing receiver who had just dropped a pass in the end zone: "Coach, if they're not going to catch them, we're not going to cover them."
•Ed Croke, New York Giants public relations man, on 295-pound Defensive End Leonard Marshall: "We put him on a Cambridge diet, and he ate half of Cambridge."
•Norman Hackerman, president of Rice, after the Owls signed new football Coach Watson Brown to a six-year contract reportedly worth $1.2 million: "It's a commentary on society, not me."
•Sam Rutigliano, Cleveland Browns coach, exquisitely mixing metaphors after a loss: "If you can't make the putts and can't get the man in from second in the bottom of the ninth, you're not going to win enough football games in this league, and that's the problem we had today."
•Larry Holmes, WBC heavyweight champion, explaining why he continues to dwell in his hometown of Easton, Pa. instead of moving to a bigger city: "Here, the Joneses try to keep up with the Holmeses."